THREE STRIKES: Clarence clubs ousted in FFA Cup round one
FOOTBALL: The Clarence will not be represented in any form in the second round of the FFA Cup preliminary stage after all three local clubs were at the mercy of their North Coast Football rivals at the weekend.
It was a treacherous journey for newly reformed Grafton United as they headed to Coffs Harbour to meet Premier League giants Coffs Coast United Lions in a round ball mismatch, while Westlawn Tigers also suffered at the hands of a mismatch against 2016 FFA Cup NCF Division winners Urunga Raiders.
United struggled to mount an offence against the Lions as they succumbed to a 10-0 loss while Westlawn showed fire in the first half before Urunga came home with a wet sail to finish 9-0 victors.
But it was not all gloom for the Clarence clubs with new Maclean Bobcats coach Scott Elphick proud of his side's efforts after a 4-1 loss to Orara Valley Dingoes.
"They played quality football at the end of the day and that is all I can ask," Elphick said. "Jarred got up at half-time and said this was the best football they have played in two years.
"That made me very happy because at the end of the day it is not about winning or losing, it is about playing the best football you can."
What impressed the coach the most was the style of football his green machine played against the Dingoes, with the Maclean side moving away from 'crash and bash' football to a more structured style. A style he hopes will win the hearts of local fans.
"There are new players in this side, I am new to senior coaching, we have a new management team on board - everything about this season is new," he said. "Even the way we are going to play.
"That is what this season is all about. It is about playing structured, smart football. It is about giving people good football to watch, something they will want to keep coming back to watch."
Elphick said the side will take a few lessons out of the loss to Orara, head back to the training paddock and return stronger in the next series of trial matches.
Joyce sees plenty of positives out of heavy loss
WESTLAWN Tigers coach James Joyce still found positives for his young Premier League outfit after their tough 9-0 loss at the hands of Urunga Raiders.
At 35, Joyce is by far the oldest in the squad and, with a few members of the under-15 youth side playing in the FFA Cup fixture, he said it was a steep learning curve for his side.
"It wasn't the result we were after but I guess you have to expect that against one of the better teams going around," he said. "When we switched off they just punished us.
"It is tough for us Clarence clubs with nothing keeping our stars in the region once they reach a certain age.
"You always feel like you are rebuilding the club with a new crop of juniors. It is hard when they don't have a lot to look up to in terms of role models."
Though for Joyce, the benefit of having a predominantly youthful side is their hunger and ability to continue to improve even if the chips are down.
With burgeoning midfield stars Tom Westman and Riley Keogh showing plenty of talent against Urunga, Joyce is confident the Tigers can become a force in the 2017 season.